Lessenberry quits Metro Times, steps away from WSU amid misconduct claims
Less than a day after a report surfaced alleging Detroit-area journalist Jack Lessenberry has a history of inappropriate behavior and comments toward women, he resigned as a columnist for the Metro Times.
He also stepped away from his teaching duties at Wayne State University, officials said Friday.
A day earlier, the Metro Times suspended Lessenberry after Deadline Detroit reported allegations that he made inappropriate comments or paid undue attention to women while an editor at the Commercial Appeal in Memphis in the early 1990s and later as a journalism instructor at Wayne State.
Metro Times Editor-in-Chief Lee DeVito said in a column published Friday on the weekly tabloid's web site that Lessenberry quit in response to being suspended.
"Jack didn’t agree with my decision. He pointed out that not one of the women in the Deadline story had come forward to file a formal complaint with WSU, and that his other employers, Michigan Public Radio and the Toledo Blade, had not decided to suspend him."
At Wayne State, where Lessenberry is chair of the journalism department and a lecturer, officials said the veteran journalist is stepping away from student instruction while the university investigates.
Lessenberry, who has been affiliated with the Detroit university since 1993, informed the dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts Friday morning that he was voluntarily stepping aside from any instruction or student engagement, said Linda Galante, WSU’s associate general counsel.
"We informed him the university was going to do an independent investigation with an outside investigator," she said. "Given the allegations and events of the last couple of days, President (M. Roy) Wilson decided it was important to retain an outside investigator."
The university has not set a deadline for when the investigation has to be completed or any other parameters, she said.
Galante said the university has not suspended Lessenberry, though he will not be teaching two courses scheduled for the summer. The department will find a substitute to cover the classes, she said.
Galante also reiterated the university is aware of only one formal complaint about Lessenberry during his years there and no action was taken because it was determined there was no misconduct. The complaint was received this March about an alleged incident that happened in 2005, she said.
"Other than that complaint, we've had no complaints that have been documented about Prof. Lessenberry in 25 years," Galante said.
Lessenberry said Friday that he suggested to the university that he not teach this summer.
That way, the investigation can be completed “without prejudice” and the school can interview his current students, he said.
“I wanted this to be absolutely above board … with no hint of any kind of taint whatsoever and they agreed to do that,” Lessenberry told The Detroit News. “My anticipation is that the investigation will show the truth, which is that I’m not guilty of these things and will exonerate me.”
Lessenberry said he plans to continue in his roles as senior political analyst for Michigan Radio and ombudsman and writing coach for the Toledo Blade.
Lessenberry was a foreign correspondent and national editor for The Detroit News in the 1980s.
Nicquel Terry and Louis Aguilar contributed.